Sunday, March 2, 2008

Büchel - MoCA Redux - follow the money

Photo manipulations by Larry Murray with thanks to Charles Giuliano for the Joe Thompson photo.

The controversy over Christoph Büchel's Training Ground for Democracy is not likely to end anytime soon. I wrote about it on this blog last Summer, and the exhibit has since been deconstructed, demolished, and damned to the landfill.

First Buchel Story
Second Buchel Story
Recent Charles Giuliano article in Berkshire Fine Arts

But the paperwork lives on.

And the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes has nothing on what the artist and museum have been doing with the tons of paperwork created in the flurry of discovery requests leading up to the infamous trial. Both plaintiff and defendant got exactly what they wanted: a hook to hang fund raising and income producing efforts on.

Rather than suffering harm, the controversy is ultimately turning into a pot of gold for both of them.

Büchel has taken his boxes of legal documents and begun to show them at exhibits at his own gallery in New York, Maccarone, and at Art Basel Miami Beach. His increased notoriety no doubt helped him capture the $100,000 Hugo Bass prize. He has priced some of the documents from the trial at a quarter of a million dollars.
The artist as capitalist is an impressive thing to behold.

Meanwhile Joe Thompson, head of Mass MoCA and his development staff have turned the controversy into patron gold. At a fundraiser held in New York, the museum raised a million dollars, four times as much as the event generated before. It is also noteworthy that the previously unendowed museum has now raised some $12 million for its long range stability, one-third towards its goal of $35 million.

And though the museum lost ground in terms of attendance during the year the Büchel project tied up its main gallery, it has since racked up significant increases in visitation, some of which has to be attributed to the greater awareness the controversy brought.

The New York Times wrote about this today in their Sunday Arts Section complete with a slide show:

Times Feature

Accusations, Depositions: Just More Fodder for Art

The battle between Christoph Büchel and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, one of the most publicized and minutely dissected the art world had ever seen, continues.
The legal documents as art - NY Times Photo

To me, the exhibition of legal papers is fairly dull, deserving the mundane setting of a classroom rather than that of a gallery. But even if these paper works end up in a museum somewhere, there is as message to be learned here. Celebrity sells.

It appears that both the museum and outraged artist have made a satisfying brew from their lemons.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Variations on the Theremin - Pamela Kurstin

Under the sensitive control of Pamela Kurstin, the Theremin becomes jazz, or lounge music, and a violin or a bass. Watch her masterful vibrato and note flanging.

She plays and discusses her theremin, the not-just-for-sci-fi electronic instrument that is played without being touched. Songs include the classic "Autumn Leaves," Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life" and a composition by David Mash, "Listen: the Words Are Gone."

You can find her performance here, at the TED Conference site:

Pamela Kurstin performs

You will enjoy this wonderful 19 minute session with Virtuoso Pamelia Kurstin. She also has a simple webpage:

Pamela's web page

March 1, Notes by Larry Murray

Richard Box - Tubes and Lines

Artists often make political statements in subtle ways, and the latest installation by British artist Richard Box is a great example.

He has planted 831 florescent bulbs in a field under some power lines, and they are illuminated solely by the electrical field the high voltage lines generate. His website details his life and art. He also has a DVD that documents the whole thing.

Artist's website

From Britain's Guardian newspaper:

The 1301 fluorescent tubes are powered only by the electric fields generated by overhead powerlines.
Richard Box, artist-in-residence at Bristol University’s physics department, got the idea for the installation after a chance conversation with a friend. ‘He was telling me he used to play with a fluorescent tube under the pylons by his house,’ says Box. ‘He said it lit up like a light sabre.’
Box decided to see if he could fill a field with tubes lit by powerlines. After a few weeks hunting for a site, he found a field, slipped the local farmer £200 and planted 3,600 square metres with tubes collected from hospitals.

A fluorescent tube glows when an electrical voltage is set up across it. The electric field set up inside the tube excites atoms of mercury gas, making them emit ultraviolet light. This invisible light strikes the phosphor coating on the glass tube, making it glow. Because powerlines are typically 400,000 volts, and Earth is at an electrical potential voltage of zero volts, pylons create electric fields between the cables they carry and the ground.

Box denies that he aimed to draw attention to the potential dangers of powerlines, ‘For me, it was just the amazement of taking something that’s invisible and making it visible,’ he says. ‘When it worked, I thought: ‘This is amazing.’’